W IDOWS and orphans of Cambodian soldiers killed in the continuing guerrilla war
are only entitled to $100 in benefits, but the government cannot afford even
"For my ministry, we don't want the war to drag on. If it does it
means we'll be burdened with more dead and more amputees," Dr Hong Theme, under
secretary of state of Social Welfare, Labor and Veterans' Affairs, said on April
26. He called for international humanitarian organizations to help rehabilitate
Theme said the annual budget allocation to run the ministry
could not even cover six months of expenses.
He said his ministry was
responsible for providing financial benefits to more than 140,000 dependents
including wives, mothers and children of deceased government
However, the government could not make payment on the monthly
entitlements, which came to $220,000 - well beyond the means of his
"If any one government soldier is killed on the battlefield, we
pay immediately three months salary to the family and funeral costs. After that
we pay another three months salary followed by a final 12 months salary," he
An average soldier's salary is $7 per month.
Theme, the figures only covered soldiers who served with the former State of
The ministry had also received a list of dead servicemen who had served with
the former royalist and non-government guerrilla factions that joined the State
of Cambodia in last May's UN-supervised elections.
This had been returned
for further verification.
No figures are available for Khmer Rouge
Now only the families of servicemen killed in action are entitled
to government assistance, he said.
Another of Cambodia's biggest social
problems is dealing with 200,000 orphans.
"As you understand because of
more than 20 years of war, especially the Pol Pot time, this created many, many
orphans," he said.
The Khmer Rouge, lead by Pol Pot were responsible for
the deaths of more than one million Cambodians during a 1970s reign of
He said many orphans had known no other home except housing
provided by the state.
"Some orphans living in orphanages since 1979 are
adults, so they have to leave the orphanage and we have to help them get a
profession," he said.
The inability of the government to meet its
financial obligations to war victims had led to an upsurge of homeless children
living on the street and amputee beggars.
"Another problem you might have
seen is amputee beggars at markets or on the roads. You may wonder if the
government pays them, why are they begging," Theme said, adding: "This is a very
An estimated 10 million land mines in Cambodia
continues to claim hundreds of victims per month.
"In Cambodia, social
welfare is one of the smallest ministries," Theme said.-Reuters